Asst. Prof. Renz Christian Argao, Ph.D., of the UST Graduate School was appointed as a Member of the World Health Organization – Strategic and Technical Advisory Group on Infectious Hazards with Pandemic and Epidemic Potential (STAG-IH).
According to its website, the WHO STAG-IH is a high-level advisory group composed of various experts from around the world that provides independent advice and analysis to WHO on the infectious hazards that may pose a potential threat to global health security. Established by the WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus in 2018, the WHO STAG-IH has an umbrella function as the overarching group advising WHO on relevant infectious hazards.
The functions of the WHO STAG-IH include, among others, providing independent assessment of the global context and horizon scanning of infectious diseases with pandemic and epidemic potential, including newly emerging and re-emerging zoonosis. It also advises the WHO on the prioritization of WHO’s strategies and activities in prevention, preparedness and response related to infectious hazards with pandemic and epidemic potential.
Argao is the first Filipino and the first Psychologist to be appointed to the STAG-IH. He joins the other members of the advisory group who are composed of epidemiologists, immunologists, infectious disease experts, and public health experts. According to Argao, his application statement focused on the mental health and psychosocial support aspects of pandemic prevention and response. He said that he will contribute on strategies and guidelines on how communities can deal with future pandemics or epidemics especially through behavioral and transformational change.
Apart from his expertise in psychology and mental health, Argao aims to provide insight on the role of the youth and inter-generational perspectives, as well as lobby for the integration of the important role of religious institutions, leaders, and organizations on pandemic preparedness and response.
The interreligious aspect of pandemic responses is brought about by Argao’s involvement in global interreligious work and faith-based diplomacy. He is a member of the World Council of Religious Leaders of Religions for Peace, a body composed of the world’s senior-most religious leaders representing various religions and faith traditions.
Prior to his appointment to the WHO STAG-IH, Argao contributed to a WHO Roundtable discussion on exploring the future of the COVID-19 pandemic and other infectious threats where he provided recommendations on how we can prepare to face the four plausible scenarios regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic.